The buzz on my social media feed today is all about Miley Cyrus and her “spectacle” during the 2013 Video Music Awards ceremony. What did I think about it? I kept getting asked. My initial reaction was, “Miley who?”
I relented and hit “The Google”. Aha, a child actress on the Disney children’s show, Hannah Montana. That explains my unfamiliarity with Miley, as I don’t watch many kids’ shows these days. She went on to become a 20-year-old singer with an unimpressive voice but a famous country music singer father and her own Disney-enhanced celebrity. (These days, talent always take a back seat to celebrity). Through the time machine known as YouTube, I was able to view the astonishing half-life regression of Miley Cyrus’ brief musical career, from wholesome teen to punk slut.
Then, I viewed the infamous six-minute VMA clip. Miley enters a stage filled with giant Teddy bears, dressed in a skimpy mouseketeer T-shirt (the mouse ears double as her bra) and spandex shorts. She vies with Gene Simmons for the title of most active tongue in a music video; simulates sex with her partner (not to mention with a foam finger); and strips down to her underwear for gyrations that would make any pole dancer proud.
Was it any more inappropriate than what passes for entertainment in hip hop videos or even the shot of Lady Gaga’s bare posterior viewers were treated to in the opening of the same VMA show? Not that two wrongs make a right, but it is rather hypocritical to criticize Miley for doing what others have done, merely because she did it more effectively. Let’s face it, her goal was to create a buzz, and that’s exactly what she did. Love it or hate it, Miley got a million dollars of publicity in six minutes. We’re talking about her — she won.
Not that I mind watching a 20-year-old strip to her underwear and give me a lascivious lap dance in my living room. Every man I know is agreeing with his wife or girlfriend how awful the video was… right before they replay it. But I must admit to professional jealousy: as a creator of entertainment attempting to market my own work, I realize Miley managed to get more people to view her work in six minutes than will ever view mine in my entire lifetime. Which I find rather sad.
I lied. I do watch some children’s shows, on occasion. This week, I've been fortunate enough to be introduced to The Sarah Jane Adventures. Up until a month ago, I had never seen an episode of Doctor Who, so I didn't know Elisabeth Sladen had played the Doctor’s sexy companion when she was in her late 20s. My first exposure to her came as she reprised her role as Sarah Jane Smith, reporter and intrepid heroine, 30 years later. She was the eponymous star of The Sarah Jane Adventures, playing a warm-hearted, brilliant, and adventurous older woman. Not merely a role model for girls, Elisabeth Sladen portrayed her character with such grace and class that Sarah Jane Smith became more relevant and independent with age. At 65, Elisabeth Sladen was nonetheless sexy and vivacious; arguably she became more attractive with age, like a fine wine.
Elisabeth Sladen died last year. Cancer. She worked up until the end, leaving behind two generations of fans, old and young. Her performances were marked by grace and class. Her character showed girls they could grow up to be smart, self sufficient, and remain attractive as they age. Elisabeth Sladen proved true Eleanor Roosevelt’s adage: "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” Take notes, Miley.